Famous Painters and Paintings: Pablo Picasso

About the famous painter Pablo Picasso, history and biography of the artist.

THE PAINTER: PABLO PICASSO

(1881-1973)

For nearly 3/4 of a century, Picasso dominated the world of art. From the days of his early youth as a classicist, through his years as a cubist and surrealist, his achievements as painter, sculptor, lithographer, and ceramist were immense and unique.

Picasso was born on October 25, 1881, in Malaga, Spain, the son of an art teacher, Jose Ruiz Blasco, and Maria Picasso Lopez. He was known by his mother's name from the age of 20 on. At 14, he was admitted to art school in Barcelona where his adventures were a forerunner of the bohemian behavior that was to inspire headlines for decades. In 1900, he paid his 1st visit to Paris, and settled there 4 years later. During those early days in Montmartre, Picasso was a familiar figure in the cafes and bistros, but he had little artistic success. He fell in love with the beautiful Fernande Oliver, who later was to write reminiscences of their bohemian existence. Eventually he joined the circle gathered around the American expatriates Gertrude and Leo Stein and his fortunes improved. In 1907 came the 1st grand landmark in his career. That spring he invited a few friends, including the artists Henri Matisse and Georges Braque, to his studio to inspect a large painting he had been working on. It has become known as Young Women of Avignon (Les Desmoiselles d'Avignon), and it is from this painting that some experts have dated the birth of cubism. After a period spent in designing scenery for the Ballet Russe--during which time he married his 1st wife, Olga Koklova, a dancer in the troupe--Picasso returned to Paris, where he began to paint in the neoclassic and then the surrealist style that was to occupy him until the mid-30s.

In 1936 he returned to Spain as director of the Prado Museum in Madrid. His sympathies for the Loyalist Government and his outrage at Generalissimo Francisco Franco's fascism not only caused his self-imposed exile from Spain, but also his public conversion to communism in 1944.

It was his flair for the exotic way of life that brought headlines about his personal life as well as his art and politics. Two wives, a succession of mistresses, and his children--legitimate and otherwise--provided a series of sensations for the popular press of the world. Even in death, he remained controversial. When it was learned he had bequeathed his personal collection of over 800 works of art to the Louvre in Paris, with the approval of his wife Jacqueline and his only legitimate son, Paulo, other members of the family waged a battle for their share of the master's legacy.

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